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Excellence Models and Its Relationship to Project Management Theory and Practices

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Perfection is not attainable, but if we chase perfection, we can catch excellence” This is how Vince Lombardi described excellence. So excellence is about doing your best every day. Specially in special periods of time such as crisis or even when we reach a satisfaction point and find later on that it’s not enough anymore, Only organizations that always seeking excellence can find solutions to survive during crisis and to exceed expectations of the normal outstanding results.

Business Excellence:

Most of the researchers described business excellence as the outstanding practices in managing organization and achieving sustainable results.

“Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.” – Sun Tzu (Chinese General and Author, b. 500 bc) So in order to go for the excellence we must have a clear and sustainable strategy, So initially we should have a vision for the future, repeatable system, instrument for success, build sustain improvement and maintain momentum. The concept of business excellence is based on some major values and fundamentals described in some models to be used by the world class organizations.

1st we need to differentiate between the operational excellence and the business excellence, Operational excellence can be described by how people, their culture, resources and system can optimally work together, While business excellence focus on delivering overall results in a pragmatic and consistent way. In our report we will focus on business excellence, what’re the models that can be used to insure business excellence and what’s the best model that can be used with projectized organizations that can best use and improve in the ten PM knowledge areas.

Business Excellence Criteria:

As general the basic criteria that the concept of business excellence is built on are visionary leadership, strategic planning, customer focus, information and analysis, human resources, process management and business results.

Business Excellence Framework:

Business excellence framework can be describes as a process that begins with leadership, going through different stakeholders, collecting stakeholders expectations, setting management strategies to execute and achieve these expectations then checking the results and compare it with the stakeholders expectations. This is the basic framework for business excellence process.

Famous Business Excellence Models:

In this part we will briefly describe three famous excellence models and choose the most one that can be used in projectized organizations and strongly use and improve project management ten basic knowledge areas. Of course we have many business excellence models and techniques and we have also the international standardizations such as ISO 21500 and we have the core PM knowledge areas which should be used and applied by the excellence model for any project to insure the smooth and excellence results for the project. Now we will discuss just three models and will focus on the one that strongly use and improve in the PM knowledge areas.

1) Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award (MBNQA)

The Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award is the highest level of national recognition for performance excellence that a U.S. organization can receive. The award focuses on performance in five key areas: Product and process outcome, customer outcome, workforce outcome, leadership outcome, financial and market outcome.

The Malcolm Baldrige Award was created and established by the USA in 20 august 1987 to focus on raising awareness of quality management and performance excellence it was like a partnership between the government and the private sector, the award can be given to manufacturing, service organizations, education, health care and non-profit organizations.

The Baldrige Award standards have performed a most important role in promoting excellence in the USA and round the world, and many of the other national and worldwide quality awards can hint their parentage to the award

The award criteria was designed to help organizations to improve and approach organizational performance that results in improving values to customers, improve overall organizational performance and operational effectiveness and improve organizational and personal learning.

The Malcom Baldrige model is built on seven main criteria or areas known as Baldrige criteria for performance excellence, these criteria are:

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  • Visionary leadership: setting direction, providing framework for achieving excellence, inspiring and motivating , serving as a role model
  • Customer and Market focus: understanding customer requirements, customer relationship management, seeking eliminate customer’s dissatisfaction, differentiation, sensitivity to changing customers and market trend.
  • Organizational and personal learning: approaches to learning, increasing learning opportunities, technology enhanced learning, organizational performance.
  • Valuing employees and partners: commitment to employees, motivating employees, partnership development.
  • Agility: responsiveness, cycle time and time performance
  • Focus on the future: understand business drivers, commitment, planning
  • Managing for innovation

The model framework can be described in the below figure:

2) EFQM Model

The intention to create the EFQM was signed in October 1988, In 1991the European Foundation for Quality Management (EFQM), launch the next significant improvement in quality awards, The European Model for Total Quality Management. The European Model was created and established on the experiences of Baldrige Model and other excellence models, however it provides a much greater business focus than the previous models. The model, with its specific reference to business results led to the development of the business excellence concept. According to Porter and Tanner (1998), the EFQM excellence model is an effective diagnostic tool supplying a learning opportunity for stakeholders to view strengths and discover enhancement opportunities. Furthermore, recommended that the model should provide stakeholders with time to discover “gaps” between god practice criteria and real performance. This presents a rational and coherent groundwork for assessing performance and development on the way to gain specific goals and targets. (Porter and Tanner, n.d. 1998). The European Model has considered comparable developments over the last decade to the Baldrige Model, and is now known as the EFQM Excellence Model. The EFQM provides framework to allow the organizations to determine their current level of excellence. The model consists of three main components:

· Eight core principles that should lead to sustainable success :

  • Adding value for customers
  • Creating a sustainable future
  • Developing organizational capability
  • Harnessing creativity and innovation
  • Leading with vision, inspiration and integrity
  • Managing with agility
  • Succeeding through the talent of people
  • Sustaining outstanding results

· Nine areas (five enablers and four results)

  1. Five enablers (leadership – people – strategy – resources – Product)
  2. Four results (people – customer – society – business results)

Not all the criteria or sub-criteria have the same weight , It’s a 50/50 break up between the enablers and results criteria, but the enablers and results criteria have special weights within this break up to mirror their perceived importance. For example, ‘Leadership’ consists of a weighting of 10 per cent, whereas ‘Processes ‘accounts for 14 per cent. Similarly, with the results criteria, ‘People results’ is really worth 9 per cent, in contrast with 20 per cent for ‘Customer results. (Assessing Business Excellence 2nd Edition)

RADAR concept, this is the 3rd pillar on the EFQM model and the main reason for creating the RADAR concept is to guarantee the continues improvement cycle. Radar concept is an abbreviation for Results, Approaches, Deploy the approaches, Assess and Refine the deployed approaches.

3) IPMA Project Excellence Model (PEM)

From my point of view this model is the best model that can be used for projectized organizations and can support in identifying and improving the basic PM knowledge areas and this will be explained in details in this part.

The Project Excellence Model is an evaluation system for projects, it was developed at the end of the 20th century in 1997 by the German Association for Project Management. In 2011 the model was used initially in the context of a selection procedure, for finding excellent projects. The fair assessment of the candidates was paramount. The model is so clear that it is used 1st for the assessors as a basis for their actions and 2nd it is well comprehensible for the applicants.

The project Excellence Model was developed under the direction of Roland Ottmann at the German Society for Project Management (GPM) based on the EFQM model . It was first used internationally in 1998 by the International Project Management Association (IPMA).

The model that was in use for several years in Germany was passed on to the IPMA at the World

Congress in Berlin in 2002. From then on it has been used as a basis for assessment for the IPMA International Award.

Before going through the details of this model let me explain something related to the project management, The importance of using PM standards and knowledge areas is increasing these days with the importance of building the trust between all parties, And we have for example the ISO21500 which is perfect to be taken as a basic standard, However the ISO21500 is a generic standard so for any projectized organization will need to use also other excellence models and tools along to insure flexibility and insure excellence performance. PEM model as mentioned before it’s an open model and is very useful for any project with any type however it will be used along with all the basic knowledge areas of the project management, Useful project management will therefore apply the basic PM standards as the basis of their work to gain the freedom to achieve excellence in their project work through innovative and creative approaches.

Back to PEM model, as shown below that PEM model is applicable to projects of different scale. It can be applied regardless of the industry or the type of project. It is an open assessment model as it depends strongly on experience of assessors or other persons whom use it to standardize the way of assessing, but not the single result of judging (cf. Grau & Hutterer, 1999).

PEM assessment model is based on maximum 1,000 points awarded for the project and collected from nine criteria, The nine criteria are divided in to two main groups, Each group maintain 500 points, 1st group is for assessing the management of the project in terms of project objectives, leadership, people, resources and process, These five areas reflect the assessment of the project management by collecting 500 points out of 1,000. The 2nd group is for assessing the project results in terms of customer results, people results, and other involved parties results and finally the key performance results, these four areas collect the other 500 points. Therefore knowledge and experience of the assessors is very important in the success of this model.

So this model can be used by any project team to improve their own project and it’s open for everyone, however it’s better for the assessors and project team gain their experience within the framework or IPMA award process.

Project management (500 points)

1) Project objectives (140) :

  • Expectations and requirements of all involved stakeholders must be explained
  • The goal of the project must be clear and competing interest must be taken in account
  • Goals must be documented, checked and monitored

2) Leadership (80) :

  • Credibility examples for the project are identified, active support, implementation and improvement of the project.
  • Treatment of customers, other organizations and 3rd parties

3) People or employees (70): It has to show the following :

  • All employees are suitable for the project, opportunities for personal development are offered.
  • How employees are motivated to work independently but integrated and to take a part in the project

4) Resources (70) : it should show how the resources are allocated and used effectively so that the following areas to be controlled efficiently :

  • Finance – Information – Suppliers – Other resources

5) Process (140) : The following must be shown

  • That the required process is clear and will lead to the achievement of the goals
  • Project management methods are used and improved effectively
  • All the processes and actions are recorded and documented so that it can be used for further projects and organization.

Project Results (500 points)

6) Customer results (180): It should evaluate how the results achieved meet the requirements and expectations of the customers and do the customers evaluate the results directly and indirectly.

7) People or employees results (80): It should evaluate the level of employee satisfaction and how they asses the results directly and indirectly.

8) Results of other parties involved(60): It should show how results achieved meet the requirements and expectations of other parties involved and how they assess the results directly and indirectly

9) Goal achievement(180): Simply it should evaluate the following

  • If the defined goals are achieved (75%)
  • If the expectations were exceeded (25%)


  1. Business excellence concept
  2. Business excellence framework
  3. Malcom Baldridge: Assessing Business Excellence (Second Edition) 2004Pages 90-102
  4. Malcom Baldridge
  6. EFQM “Levels of Excellence
  7. PEM “Nino Grau / Procedia – Social and Behavioral Sciences 74 ( 2013 )”

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